If someone you know over the Internet asks you to cash a money order -- or offers it you as a form of payment -- it's probably best to remember the old legal term "Caveat emptor, or "Buyer Beware."
As reported by readers and other sources, the Internet market is (again) being flooded with counterfeit U.S. Postal Money Orders. After not being around for awhile, these items are raising their ugly head again.
The U.S. Postal Inspectors have speculated in the past that these items are being counterfeited in Western Africa and Eastern Europe. For an interesting article from the NY Times about this, link here.
This is probably the best article, I've read on this subject.
The Postal Inspectors also have a page on how to identify counterfeit money orders.
Yes, counterfeit Postal Money Orders are making a come back, but the core activity has never stopped. The Internet is full of counterfeit methods of payment and the best way to avoid becoming a victim is to recognize the social hook the criminal uses, or "something too good to be true."
While we thought counterfeit Postal Money Orders were a thing of the past, they were replaced with counterfeit items from other money order issuers and legitimate money orders, which were altered.
Of course, there are also those counterfeit cashiers checks, which have been done from so many different financial institutions, it seems impossible to keep up with.
Internet fraud artists are constantly mutating their methods to confuse their victims.
In a recent post on Internet scams, I wrote:
When someone from a Internet source offers free money, romance, or to pay more than something is worth - you are probably dealing with a fraudster.
Anyone, who does this for them, ends up with a huge loss. Even if you can convince the authorities you are a victim, the civil responsibility will still fall on you.
To make matters worse, a lot of petty criminals are getting in on the action, also. They get on the Internet, impersonate victims, get the instruments and then cash them with no intention of sending money back to the crook that sent them the item.
I predict, it's going to get harder and harder to convince the authorities that the person cashing them is totally innocent. Recently - in a "Judge Judy" episode - her "honor" chewed a defendant up and down for cashing a bunch of counterfeit money orders (through her sister's account) and claiming to be "totally innocent." In less than a minute, Judge Judy was easily able to establish that this victim had benefited financially from her transaction and had in fact never wired any money anywhere.
Best bet for all of this is to learn how to spot this activity and when we do, run away from it as fast as we can!
Of course, reporting it and making other's aware can help, also.